NAF Executive Producer ASHRAF JOHAARDIEN reflects on his experience of the unruly, fabulous celebration of the arts that is the National Arts Festival

All the world is a stage
And everyone has their part
But how was I to know which way the story’d go
How was I to know you’d break
You’d break my heart …
– Madonna and Babyface (1994). Take a Bow. [CD]
New York City: Maverick, Sire, Warner Brothers

Mamela Nyamza rocked my world. Jemma Khan blew me away. Igshaan Adams transported me. Musa Hlatswayo moved me. Mzo Gaza mesmerised me. Chuma Sopotela took me on a journey. Steven Cohen and Gabrielle Goliath cracked me wide open. Jade Bowers captivated me. Alby Michaels enthralled me. Greg MacArthur caught me off guard. Alon Nashman made my heart skip a beat. Mhlanguli George inspired and energised me. And Corné and Twakkie reminded me not to take myself so seriously…

This year marks the 25th anniversary of my National Arts Festival debut as a student performer in the UCT production of SUIP! which played (and extended) in Christ Church Hall on Speke Street in the town formerly known as Grahamstown. It is a story I often tell and a production I often refer to because it literally changed my life. It was when I fell head over heels in love with South African stories told on stage in the way that only South Africans are able to tell our stories. It also marked the moment in time and space that I fell in love with the National Arts Festival because she was the epitome of #AMAZ!ING even back then.

A quarter of a century later, I love this Festival and all of the people that make it happen just as much now as I did back then. Yes, sure – I’m a lot older, perhaps not a lot wiser (and considerably greyer than the mute street kid I played all those many moons ago) – but you know what? I’m just as starry-eyed and full of wonder at the magic we were able to conjure this year at the confluence of artists and audiences in this place we now call Makhanda.

So forgive me if I’m a bit nostalgic tonight as I write this with my bags packed upstairs in preparation for my early morning journey back to Jozi tomorrow. I had great time. No … an amazing time …

And you made it happen …
So, so long and thanks for the memories.
Let’s do it all over again next year …

 

Image: Executive Producer Ashraf Johaardien at the opening of the 2018 Visual Art programme at the National Arts Festival. Photo: Jan Potgieter/Stagefocus